On Friday, Orlando City will return to action after a two-week Gold Cup break. Their opponent: Atlanta United, the Lions newest MLS neighbor. There has been a lot of hype surroundings both the teams and their potential rivalry, but Head Coach Jason Kreis doesn’t want to rush into anything before the teams have even stepped foot onto the pitch.
“I’m one that believes that rivalries are intrinsic, meaning that they happen through experiences,” Kreis said. “I think it’s premature to be talking about whether or not they’re our rival. We shall see, starting with the first fifteen minutes of the match Friday night, and we will go from there to decide whether or not they’re our rival.”
One thing is certain: the back-to-back matches against Atlanta United will not be easy. And Orlando City is expecting many traveling supporters to make the trip from Atlanta to Orlando City Stadium to support their side. So now, perhaps more than ever, the Lions need their fans to come out loud.
“We hope that our fans come early and we hope that our fans are loud and we hope that our fans are very supportive of us,” Kreis said at training this week. “I would repeat an urgent request to the fans that we need you. You’re part of our family and we need you there Friday night.”
“I think it brings a great atmosphere and that pushes the players on and certainly gets the adrenaline going even more so than on a normal day,” Jonathan Spector said. “So, it will be a great atmosphere, it will be a fun occasion to play, and with the hype surrounding the game, it’ll be exciting.”
We have seen in the past that Orlando City fans can shift the momentum of matches. Having a stadium full of raucous supporters is like having a 12th man on the pitch, and it could be the extra lift that the players need to get that win at home. The players will do whatever it takes to beat Atlanta. Kreis hopes that the fans will too.